Led by acting Director Mike Kwielford, The Midwest Independent Film Festival (“MIFF”) has teamed up with nonprofit LiftUPLift Worldwide in order to create a safer, more inclusive and harassment-free environment for all its participants.
LiftUPlift Worldwide is an Illinois-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to end sexual violence by promoting awareness and prevention. Founded by Corielle Heath and Rachel Jones in 2015, the entity will help MIFF provide harassment awareness, prevention and response training for leaders of the film festival, while also acting as a third-party Policy Implementation and Compliance Liaison.
MIFF, which has been a mainstay in the Chicago independent film community for 15 years, has also published its “Code of Conduct” on its website. “This was just something that needed to be done in this current climate. I feel that the Midwest Independent Film Festival has an obligation to be on the forefront of awareness and prevention toward harassment of any kind, and to lead by example to create safe, inclusive environments for all participants,” Kwielford told Reel Chicago.
He added, “The lack of a clear avenue for reporting harassment of any kind is a concern for many organizations and independent film productions. Our goal is to set an example for the film community. We have worked both within our organization and reached out to others in order to create a complete and effective Code of Conduct and Whistleblower Policy to reflect that mission, and I hope to inspire other organizations to follow suit.”
Kwielford, went on to say that any MIFF employee, staff, volunteer or attendee who believes that they have been subject to harassment of any kind is urged to report the incident through LiftUPlift Worldwide via email@example.com.
LiftUPlift will initiate an external investigation into the incident and proceed while protecting the confidentiality of the victim to the greatest possible extent.
According to “The Code of Conduct,” the policy encompasses and prohibits all forms of illegal harassment and discrimination, not only sexual harassment. Accordingly, MIFF absolutely prohibits harassment or discrimination based on sex, age, disability, perceived disability, marital status, pregnancy, personal appearance, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, national origin, veteran status or any other legally protected characteristic.
The new policy also provides a “Whistleblower Reporting Procedure” that ensures each member of the MIFF community feels welcomed and respected.
“If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please report all violations or suspected violations by contacting our Conduct Committee, which has been designated by the organization to receive, investigate and respond to complaints, at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may submit a good faith complaint to MIFF without fear of dismissal or retaliation of any kind.”
Finally, the policy also attempts to define the meaning of sexual harassment:
• Offensive and unwelcome sexual invitations, whether or not the employee submits to the invitation, and particularly when a spoken or implied quid pro quo for sexual favors is a benefit of employment or continued employment;
• Offensive and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including sexually- graphic spoken comments; offensive comments transmitted by e-mail or another messaging system; offensive or suggestive images or graphics whether physically present in the workplace or accessed over the Internet; or the possession of or use of sexually suggestive objects; and
• Offensive and unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature, including the touching of another’s body; the touching or display of one’s own body, or any similar contact.
Kwielford hopes that others in the Chicago film community will follow suit. “I urge other organizations, and especially independent film productions who have a limited or unclear avenue for reporting harassment, to consider contacting liftUPlift to help implement an effective policy.”
The entire “Code of Conduct” can be read here.
Contact Colin Costello at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.